Norway: The new illegal underclass

Thousands of people, most of them immigrants with no legal right to be in Norway, are believed to be working in the country under conditions that some experts describe as modern-day slavery.

Newspaper Aftenposten has been running a series of stories describing the lives of many members of the country's new underclass of illegal immigrants. The vast majority sought asylum in Norway, were turned down, but have avoided deportation.

Most are hiding out all over the country, in friends' homes, basements, churches or makeshift shelter. With no legal right to work, and lacking the state tax card necessary to obtain legitimate employment, members of this new underclass are vulnerable to exploitation.

That's because there's a pressing need for labour in Norway, and work abounds. Some employers are as willing to "hire" illegal immigrants at wages well below scale as the immigrants are willing to work.

Among them is "Ziad," a 32-year-old Palestinian who grew up in a refugee camp in Lebanon. He's been living underground in Norway for seven years, ever since his appeal for asylum in Norway was turned down. He sleeps on a mattress on the floor of an Oslo cellar along with six other illegal immigrants in Oslo, and is in constant fear of being seized and deported. Ziad worked long days for a vegetable dealer in Oslo, also from the Middle East, who regularly abused him and paid him small change. But even that helped Ziad eat, since he's constantly desperate for money. The job ended abruptly when the vegetable dealer replaced him with a family member.
Such stories of desperation are repeated from Kristiansand to Tromsø, and have included a couple who even had a baby girl while hiding out. They're constantly worried her crying will attract attention and reveal their location in a small mountain town.

The government minister in charge of immigration and refugee issues in Norway, Bjarne Håkon Hanssen from the Labour Party, believes the answer is for police to continue efforts to round up refugees on the run and deport them to their home countries. Other politicians disagree, and have proposed amnesty programs that would allow new hearings for illegal immigrants or allow many already in the country to stay.

"I am firmly opposed to amnesty," Hanssen told Aftenposten. "It would set our return work several years back, and send out a signal that people can go underground and endure it until they qualify for amnesty."

Hanssen also believes amnesty would make a mockery of the long evaluation process that goes into all asylum cases in Norway. "I have sympathy for these people, but their cases have been evaluated, and the main challenge is to find them so we can send them out of the country," he said.

Source: Aftenposten (English)

See also: Denmark: Employers abuse asylum-seekers

Norway: 'honor' murderers should get reduced sentence

Tor Erling Staff talks about Norway 'betraying' the immigrants, but as Prof. Unni Wikan wrote in her book (see Book Review: Breeding Betrayal (2) ), in this case he's betraying the women and children who had come to Norway hoping for a better, western life. Why should they be forced by Norwegians to live a foreign culture that they don't choose for?


In the public debate the most strict punishments are called for so-called honor murder. Tor Erling Staff (lawyer at the supreme court) is, on the contrary, quite clear that honor must be an extenuating circumstance when giving out sentences.

Staff thinks that Norwegian society has betrayed men from other cultures who had come to Norway.

In a book published this week, Staff says that those who commit honor murder in Norway should get a reduction in sentence. If two people are sentenced for murder that according to the law should be punished in the same manner, Tor Erling Staff thinks that the person who can show that he killed his wife on ground of honor, should get a lighter sentence.

Staff says that if a murderer should get 17 years in prison, a man who murdered his wife on the grounds of his family's honor should get two years reduction.

Staff says that many who have come to Norway have other traditions, attitudes, ethics and experiences of their duties and rights. Norwegian courts have decided not to take that into consideration.

In the 80's Staff had a murder case in Drammen where the Eidsivating court took into account when deciding on a sentence that the murderer was from another cultural tradition. Staff says that was the last time he had seen a Norwegian court take that into account when deciding on sentencing.

Q: Do you really think that a man of foreign origin who kills his wife should be sentenced to a shorter sentence than an ethnic Norwegian who kills his wife?

A :It is important to understand why a murder took place. We can't neglect to pay attention as to why. It can be fairly revealing that the crime happened because the way of thinking and duties are different for people of other cultures. Therefore tradition and cultural background should be taken into account.

In the book "of law, life and death" - co-written by author Håvard Rem - Staff gets the following question: Do you mean that in the most extreme consequence a wife's murder will be considered an expression of lack of integration and existence of integrity?

Staff answered that he does. He says the crisis centers are like a fortress which gives protection and security, but they are themselves part of the reason for this necessity. Outside the fortress there are always people who feel betrayed.

They are betrayed by Norwegian Society, says Staff to Dagbladet. They come from places where equality is an unknown concept. Where the thought of eqality is a humilitaion. Suddenly they land here, in the middle of equality paradise. It is clear there is stress, and this stress gets to a breaking point. Society wants them to integrate. That they get around to the Norwegian way of thinking and turn away from their own way of thinking, he says in his book.

Staff thinks that there is a clear tendency for Norwegian courts try to ignore the concept of honor murder. He says he feels criminal care attempts to define away the concept of honor murder and that it's important for the courts to take a position on it.

Q: Does this mean that you think Norwegian courts don't take honor murder into account?

A: When they don't take into account the murder's tradition, cultural, ethics, experience of duties and rights, it's wrong. The court must know why. It seems to me that society and the courts are completely uninterested in finding out the cause for the crime.

The lawyer thinks Norwegian society is characterized by self-righteousness and that we don't understand other cultures and ways of thinking.

Staff: Everything we Norwegians stand for is so damned god. We aren't interested in other cultures' ways of thought. Norwegians are morally condemning, and we are characterized by that the whole society rejects actions and doesn't try to understand why honor murder happens. I really think we are awfully self-righteous.

Q: Isn't honor murder a premediated act that should be punished more stricly than other murders that aren't planned?

A: I don't percieve honor murder as a premeditated crime.

Q: Aren't you afraid that there will be more murders if the courts give a sentence reduction for honor murder?

A: No! This revolves around justice. Therefore we must know why a murder took place and if the reason is honor, it must have meaning for giving out punishment

In his new book Staff also attacks Norwegian crisis centers, saying they accept only one party in a two-sided situation. They enable a woman to escape regardless and thereby always provide a temptation. He says that a main reason for the criminality in today's Norway is that the father is kept away from the children.

Source: Dagbladet (Norwegian)

Rotterdam: Ramadan should act against virginity cult

The philosopher Tariq Ramadan must act against the virginity cult within the Muslim community, says the Leefbaar Rotterdam party. Ramadan was appointed at the beginning of the year as guest professor of Identity and Citizenship at Erasmus University. The municipality of Rotterdam wants him to boost the dialog in the city.

The Rotterdam party wants the Swiss, who has Egyptian roots, to speak out against forced marriages as well. According to Leefbaar Rotterdam, Ramadan is a "wolf in sheep's clothing," by speaking out he can prove the contrary.

"Ramadan is financed with tax money and therefore should exert himself for the Rotterdam community," says Leefbaar council member Marianne van den Anker. She points out that in Rotterdam girls are being coerced to get married, minor girls are married in Islamic ceremonies in mosques. "Many young girls are weighed down by the virginity cult," says Van den Anker.

As an Islamologist Ramadan can make taboo subjects debatable. The party calls on Ramadan to play an active role.

Source: (Dutch)

See also: Rotterdam: Tariq Ramadan hired by municipality

UK: British Muslims back "teddy bear teacher"

British Muslims have given their backing to teacher Gillian Gibbons, 54, who is facing charges in Sudan that she insulted Islam and incited hatred by allowing her class to name a teddy bear Mohammad.

Here is reaction from some British Islamic groups.

-- Muslim Council of Britain, (MCB), Britain's largest Muslim organisation:

"This is a disgraceful decision and defies common sense. There was clearly no intention on the part of the teacher to deliberately insult the Islamic faith," said Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari, Secretary-General of the MCB.

"The children in Ms Gibbons' class and their parents have all testified as to her innocence in this matter. We call upon the Sudanese President, Umar al-Bashir, to intervene in this case without delay to ensure that Ms Gibbons is freed from this quite shameful ordeal."

-- Ramadhan Foundation, a Muslim youth organisation:

"The Ramadhan Foundation urges the Sudanese Authorities to immediately release Gillian Gibbons as she has not set out deliberately to offend or demonise Islam and Muslims," said Mohammed Shafiq.

"This matter is not worthy of arrest or detention and her continued detention will not help repair the misconceptions about Islam.

"Like migrants coming to this country have to learn English, our values and customs, it is imperative that British citizens learn the values, customs and beliefs of their adopted country.

"The usual suspects are using this to demonise and attack Islam; this is wrong and is racism and prejudice of its worse sort."

-- British Muslims for Secular Democracy, a group which supports a clear separation between state and religion:

"We appeal to the Sudanese government to review their decision to take legal proceedings against Ms Gibbons, and remember that millions of British non-Muslims show deep respect towards the Islamic faith and live harmoniously with its followers in the UK," said Dr Shaaz Mahboob.

"Ms Gibbons did not mean any disrespect towards the Prophet Mohammad. Such a gesture of goodwill on behalf of the Sudanese government would highlight the Islamic spirit of tolerance and forgiveness."

--The Ahmadiyya Muslim Association UK, an international organisation which advocates understanding among different faiths:

"This was clearly an innocent mistake from a teacher who was trying her utmost to teach the young children under her charge," said Abid Khan.

"Such charges, as issued by the Sudanese authorities, are totally unacceptable. We hope and pray that Ms Gibbons is freed as soon as possible and that she comes to no harm at all. Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this worrying time."

Source: Reuters (English)

Norway: Islamic Council doesn't want to say 'no' to death sentence for homosexuals

Asghar Ali, deputy head of the Islamic Council (Islamsk Råd) and member of the Oslo Worker's Society (Oslo Arbeidersamfunn) didn't want to oppose death for homosexuals earlier this month. He explained later that as a "Norwegian Muslim" he did not support such executions. But the head of the Islamic Council, Senaid Kobilica, says that he doesn't want to talk about homosexuals.

At the same time, the Islamic Council gets 500,000 Norwegian tax kroners in support. rang Kobilica up and asked him five questions:
1. Does the Islamic Council reject a death sentence for homosexuals, regardless of where in the world it happens and regardless of theological reasons?
2. Does the Islamic Council think that youth who see themselves as homosexuals can be cured with medicines or psychiatric sessions?
3. Does the Islamic Council recommend such therapy?
4. Should youth who see themselves as homosexuals be married to a person of the opposite sex?
5. Can punishment or exclusion be explained if a homosexual isn't able or doesn't want to change their sexual orientation?

Koblica said he can't answer on the spot and asked that the questions be sent to him. After many phone calls, the Islamic Council head answered by SMS, saying he was sorry but he did not want to say anything on the issue.

Håkon Haugli of the homo-network in the Labor Party thinks it's very serious that the head of an organization that claims to represent 60,000 Muslims can't oppose execution of homosexuals and forced marriage for this same group.

Associations which don't reject grave human rights abuse shouldn't get state support. This must be a requirement, he says to

What signals are they sending out to the youth by not opposing it?

Haugli says that it Indirectly legitimizes violence and discrimination of homosexuals. By not being clear, it sharpens the contrast between immigrants and Norwegians, he says and adds that when they don't answer questions about homosexuals, they don't live in the same reality that the rest of us do.

Per Willy Amundsen, spokesperson of integration of the Progress Party, doesn't doubt what should be done with the Islamic Council: If they don't absolutely reject the death penalty for homosexuals, he says it's like giving money to Vigrid (a neo-Nazi organization). They probably agree in their attitude towards homosexuality. There must be limits regarding economic support, says Amundsen and adds that we agree to finance the most extreme.

André Oktay Dahl of the Conservative Party comments as follows but stresses that he isn't speaking on behalf of the parliament group. The attitudes shown by the Islamic Council, are taken from the darkest middle ages, and there must be consequences as to how easy it should be for them to request public means, thinks Dahl.

He thinks that maybe they don't deserve what they get today. Dahl says he thinks that it should be evaluated whether their support should be cut off. They are actually encouraging criminal acts. He says he can send a copy of the Norwegian laws to the Islamic Council and that the red-green government must stop playing along with them.

Source: Nettavisen (Norwegian)

See also: Norway: Police want to recruit in mosques, Norway: Islamic council comes out against genital mutilation

Rotterdam: School suspected of financial abuse

RTV Rijnmond reports that a report on the Ibn Ghaldoun school brings up questions about subsidized trips to Saudi Arabia, imams on the payroll that don't perform any educational roles and irregularities by exams.

Ibn Ghaldoun organized several trips to Saudi Arabia in 2005 and 2006, for visiting the holy sites. In total, 197 students, teachers, parents and a large number of outsiders took part in the pilgrimage. The school got state support of 201,249 euro for the trip and promised to pay it back.

The investigation was started after the ministry of education got an anonymous letter. According to the ministry the report shows that offenses were committed. They have lodged a complaint by the justice department.

There are doubts about the authenticity of the invoices from Saudi Arabia that Ibn Ghaldoun handed over. The report says that the invoices seem to have been prepared by a third party regarding lay-out and text. For example, the lay-out and text of the invoices of both hotels are identical and have the same English language mistakes.

Ibn Ghaldoun has two full-time imams on their payroll.. They must be available for students problems but they seem to be active especially outside the school. Meanwhile the full-time functions have been moved over to part-time functions.

There are also irregularities found with exams. The examiners of Inb Ghaldoun gave too many points when correcting exercises. The inspection has a whole list of abuses.

The Rotterdam school didn't want to react to the accusations. Belgacem Naas, president of the school board, said to RTV Rijnmond that they're speaking with the ministry of education about everything. He claimed he had not recieved any offical notice of the complaint.

Besdies Ibn Ghaldoun in Rotterdam, the ministry of education has investigated a large number of other Islamic schools in the Netherlands. Also in those cases they have found abuses, varying from misuse of subsidies to failing administration members.

Deputy minister Sharon Dijksma (education) decided at the end of September to scrutinize all Islamic school administrations, because she had seen signs of mismanagement at 9 of these administrations, especially financially. The nine administration are a quarter of all Islamic school administrations. Ibn Ghaldoun is the most recent case where abuses have come to light.

Source: Telegraaf (Dutch)

See also: Amsterdam: Students to move to more religious school

France: Trial against people-smuggling ring

French prosecutors requested Wednesday jail sentences ranging from one to eight years against 25 suspected members of a vast immigration smuggling ring, in a Paris trial that wraps up Friday.

The so-called "Pashto Network" involved shipping largely Afghan and Iraqi Kurdish illegal aliens to Great Britain and led to arrests in the UK, Italy, Greece and Turkey, following an investigation that began in 2004.

When the first arrests took place in December 2005, officials it labelled France's biggest-ever immigration scam in years involving illegals destined for Britain.

On Wednesday, French prosecutor Olivier Bray asked for eight-year prison sentences apiece for four defendants, including the ring's three alleged "financiers" and its organiser, 22-year-old Iraqi Kurd Barzan Mohamed Amin, also known as "Baghet."

He also requested six- and seven-year sentences for two of Amin's suspected lieutenants, and lesser terms for other defendants.

The group charged some 8,000 dollars (5,500 euros) to bring immigrants to France, with a further fee for crossing the English channel. The money was mainly paid in the form of transfers to Western Union bank accounts in Britain.

The defendants were first spotted by police in 2004, when an Afghan man was found transporting five of his compatriots in his car in central Paris.

An undercover surveillance team watched the group for several months, before an international police round-up in December 2005 netted some 50 suspects in five countries.

The immigrants -- who came mainly from Iraq and Afghanistan but also from Pakistan, Ethiopia and Somalia -- crossed into Britain by hiding in lorries.

Amin's lawyer has denied the accused were in it for the money, suggested it was rather an immigrant help network.

Source: Expatica (English)

Sweden: Asylum seekers being sent to other EU countries

Sweden has begun sending back increasing numbers of asylum seekers to other EU member states in accordance with the so-called Dublin Regulation.

The regulation states that EU countries are obliged to assess which member state is responsible for examining an asylum application.

During the first ten months of the year, some 3, 581 of Sweden's 30,000 asylum seekers were sent back to the 25 member states responsible for their applications.

This represented a 35 percent increase on last year's figures, when 3,176 out of a total of 24,000 asylum seekers were sent to other countries, Sydsvenskan reports.

Greece was the main recipient of asylum seekers from Sweden. So far this year the Migration Board has requested Greek authorities to accept 733 people from Sweden, most of whom are Iraqi asylum seekers.

Source: The Local (English)

Norway: Krekar threatens "reactions" if he's deported

Just three days after Norway's highest court upheld a state expulsion order against Mullah Krekar, the man who's considered a threat to the nation's security has made new threats against the country that's harboured him for years.

Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported Thursday that Krekar, the former head of Islamic guerrilla group Ansar al Islam, told a Kurdish web site that he's sure the Norwegian authorities will never deport him, because that would spark "reaction" against Norway from his Islamic supporters.

Krekar told web site Awane that the "reaction" would come from his relatives, from an armed group, and also from those who follow his religious teachings and sympathize with him.

The groups, he said, "probably are from Somalia or Morocco." He refused to specify what type of "reaction" he expected.

Krekar's remarks are being widely interpreted as new threats against Norway, and that, predictably enough, has sparked more anger among Norwegians who can't understand why Krekar remains in the country.

The official version is that Krekar faces a death sentence if sent back to his native Iraq. Norway won't deport anyone if their lives would officially be in danger, and no other country has volunteered to take over responsibility for Krekar.

The mullah originally came to Norway as a refugee, later won permission to have his family join him, and since has lived largely off Norwegian welfare. He first got in trouble with Norwegian authorities when it became known that he had repeatedly violated the terms of his asylum by traveling voluntarily back to northern Iraq, to lead the guerrilla group. US authorities have long considered Krekar a terrorist suspect.

Source: Aftenposten (English)

University of Utah Conference: Radical Islam in Europe

Intimidation and coercion tactics give radical Islamic terrorists their strength, Leslie Lebel said.

Lebel, a senior fellow of the Atlantic Council of the United States, spoke about radical Islam in Europe and the strain between European nationals and Muslim immigrants at the U's Hinckley Institute of Politics on Wednesday. She said the cause of strain is rooted in immigrants' resistance to integration.

The belief in traditional Islamic concepts is used by extremists as a tool to control outsiders with warnings of retribution if depictions of Islam are used, Lebel said. As an example, Lebel said threats against the lives of Danish cartoonists for publishing an illustration of Muhammad were an unjust coercion of power through faith.

"A large number of the immigrants in Europe, unlike the U.S., are Muslims," Lebel said. "They come from very different places, very different ethnic groups and very different traditions. For example, in Germany, you have a lot of Turks who came in the 1950s to provide labor for Germany's economic miracle after the war."

The population of the European Union is about 480 million people, with the Muslim population making up 3 percent of this total, Lebel said. She said many Europeans are resisting the change Muslim immigrants are bringing.

Most Muslim immigrants to European countries are exclusive, staying in tight-knit communities and refusing to learn the language of the countries to which they immigrate, Lebel said. She cited two reasons for this resistance. First, Europeans haven't wanted Muslims to integrate because they come from different cultures and practice non-European traditions. Secondly, Muslims aren't willing to assimilate into the dominate culture of countries to which they move.

American Muslims tend to integrate more easily and generally live a middle-class lifestyle, but there are a growing number of Muslim extremists in Europe, Lebel said.

Radical Muslims have different justifications for their actions, she said. Some believe that they must return to lifestyles and practices of seventh-century Arabia and others act to retake lands that were taken from Islamic groups, such as Spain.

"I think there are two roots of radical Islam," Lebel said. "One does go back into the Koran and takes a lot of these basic Islamic concepts that have existed over the years, but have not necessarily been turbulent that way. The other group goes into European totalitarianism, there are direct philosophical and personal links to Naziism and Communism as well."

The relationship between radical Islamic groups and Naziism is based in the worship of death, blood-lust and a control over peoples' lives in all aspects, but the central concept is a hatred of Jews, Lebel said.

Source: Daily Utah Chronicle (English)

New Poll

My first blog poll has taught me something new about my readers. I now put up a new poll with a question that I'm curious about but that is much less emotional and will certainly not cause as much debate: Are you Muslim?

Poll Results: Is Nazism an expression of the political Right or Left

198 people took part in the poll, answering the question "Is Nazism an expression of the political Right or Left?"

The results:
left - 88 (44%)
right - 60 (30%)
both - 33 (16%)
neither - 17 (8%)

I had not expected so many people to answer the poll, and I thank everybody who did.

The results show that quite a large percentage of my readers believe that Nazism is an expression of the Left Wing.

My opinion? I have been reading a bit more into it in the past couple of weeks and I admit that Nazism has left-wing ideology in it, but it is in essence a right-wing extremist nationalist party. Some of you say that any nationalism is left-wing, and that I find very hard to accept.

I agree, there are many differences between "mainstream" right and the "extreme" right. But that can be seen in the Left wing as well. For those who insist, I think maybe there should be a new political spectrum, with 'totalitarian' on one side, and the 'anti-totalitarian' on the other.

More importantly for me, and the reason for this entire debate: is the danger of neo-Nazism coming from the Right or Left? Let's take a party which has been in the middle of the debate recently: the Swedish Democrats (Sverigedemokraterna). Looking at their site I find a party which places itself as a non-racist nationalist movement. They therefore make sure both on their site and on their newsletter site to stress that they're anti-racist, anti-totalitarian, anti-Nazi (see icon). They had kicked out members who had voiced overly racist ideas. These former members went on to create the National Democrats: a virulent racist party. In other words, the move was from "right-wing nationalist" to "overboard racist".

Does the Right have a monopoly on Racism? Definitely not. However, the Left usually expresses it in a much more sly manner.

Can Europe have nationalist parties which are not racist? Yes, but it is not that simple, if only because Europe, unlike the US, is composed of ethnic nation-states. Many people have brought me an analysis of the past, but I prefer looking at the present and the future. Nationalist parties which take a firm stand against racism should be encouraged and supported. There is a line that can be crossed, and for me it's not always clear where that line is. The right should not be afraid of debate on this issue, to define for itself what is acceptable and what isn't.

Now, the big question - is the Right more dangerous than the Left? I have reconsidered my opinion in the past few weeks. My assumption that the Left is not as dangerous as the Right is based on the assumption that people have a brain and will not stand by forever while their national culture is trampled in the name of "multiculturalism". I still think so. However, I did not take into account the extreme left, the anarchists and related violence. So, I'll leave it for now as an open question. I do think, though, that the minorities will suffer, in any case.

Are both more dangerous than Islam? I think so, but I'm sure this will be an issue for debate far into the future.

Paris: Calm returns

Hundreds of French riot police deployed on Wednesday night in the tense Paris suburb where the death of two boys in a motorcycle accident triggered violent clashes this week.

Despite isolated incidents and a few burning cars, the streets and housing estates of Villiers le Bel were generally calm as large formations of police in riot gear stood by and a helicopter with searchlights circled overhead.

Dozens of police officers were injured earlier in the week in clashes with gangs of youths angered by the death of two local boys in a collision with a police car on Sunday.

The incidents reawakened memories of the weeks of rioting that shook France in 2005 and laid bare the tensions in the grim, multi-ethnic housing estates that ring many French cities.

President Nicolas Sarkozy, a law-and-order hardliner as interior minister during the 2005 riots, sought to ease tensions but pledged to punish rioters who used firearms against police.

"Those who take it upon themselves to shoot at police will find themselves in the Assizes Court (which handles serious cases)," he told reporters after visiting one of the officers
seriously hurt in the riots.

Just back from a visit to China, he met members of the victims' families and agreed a formal manslaughter probe by an independent investigating judge would be opened, a key demand of the families.

A public prosecutor has said an initial crash report cleared police of blame in what she said was a road traffic accident in which the two victims were not wearing helmets.


The latest unrest has been nowhere near the scale of the clashes of 2005, when thousands of cars were torched after two teenagers were accidentally electrocuted in a power sub-station after apparently fleeing police.

Although the violence of the past days has been strongly condemned, many residents feel sympathy for the explosion of anger at the death of the two boys, who will be buried in their parents' homelands -- Morocco and Senegal.

"Everybody just wants things to be calm again," said Papy Lumbu, 32, a resident of Villiers le-Bel.

"These young people are wrong but they're right too in a way. These two kids were their friends and they're dead now. I can understand that they're angry."

Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie visited the area late on Wednesday night. Fire trucks and police cars raced to put out the occasional fire -- one on the forecourt of a car showroom -- but the atmosphere was quiet, if tense.

Many young people in the "quartiers" -- the tough housing estates at the centre of the riots -- feel marginalized from the prosperous life of middle class France and are deeply suspicious of the police.

Often the children of black or North African immigrants or working class white parents, many struggle to find work or are condemned to precarious dead-end jobs, often involving a long commute. They say their background puts off potential employers.

The government has pledged to spend 12 billion euros ($17.7 billion) on urban renewal over five years and will launch a plan to boost jobs in the deprived suburbs on January 22.

Source: Reuters (English)

See also: Paris: Riots , Paris: Riots continue , Paris: 3rd night of riots

Oxford: Request for call to prayer

Muslims in East Oxford are asking Oxford city councillors if they can add to the noise of life on Cowley Road by broadcasting a call to prayer.o The Central Mosque in Manzil Way, one of four East Oxford mosques, attracts congregations of up to 700.

Now, the Iman at the mosque, Mohammad Munir Christi, and other trustees, want permission to broadcast the call to prayer from the minaret.

The mosque has expanded since moving from Bath Road five years ago and building work has recently started on the first-floor worship area with the completion of the central cupola.

Sardar Rana, 68, a spokesman for the Central Mosque, said the call would be broadcast three times a day from early next year if permission is granted.

He said: "The call to prayer has been taking place in other major cities now for many years and we would like to be able to do the same thing at the central mosque three times a day.

"During the winter months the call to prayer would be at 12.45pm, 2.30pm and at 4.20pm, although the times would be slightly different during the summer months.

"The call to prayer would be made in the central hall and then linked to three speakers in the minaret, which would point in different directions.

"I hope the majority of people would not object to this - I don't think it would disturb anybody, but I don't know yet how loud we would be able to broadcast the call."

There are normally five prayer times during the day, starting at 6.45am and the call to prayer lasts about two minutes each time, said Mr Rana.

The bid has been backed by Canon David Partridge, a retired Anglican priest and Interfaith worker in Oxford.

He said: "In the City of Dreaming Spires, many calls to prayer are heard from its bell-ringing towers, but all of them are Christian in historical origin and intent."

Erica Bingley, 26, of Southfield Road, who can see the mosque from her road, said: "I think the call to prayer would add to the cosmopolitan ambience of Cowley Road."

The application is likely to be discussed by the East Area Parliament in the near future because the move would require a change in a planning condition.

Jan Bartlett, who owns Premier Lettings, in Manzil Way, said: "It's absolutely fine with me, whatever each person's religion needs we should try to assist.

"They have to put up with our church bells ringing."

Source: Oxford Mail (English) h/t Nieuw Religieus Peil (Dutch)

Leiden: Tariq Ramadan turns down appointment

The Faculty of Religious Studies of the University of Leiden has officially offered me a Chair in Islamic Studies, a " professorship on the Sultan of Oman Chair for Oriental Studies, for the study of Islam in the Western World". Even before it had been made official, the appointment was revealed in the press. In addition to many positive reactions, usual criticism has been expressed but it has not been - in any way - a factor in my decision.

I take this opportunity to salute the University of Leiden administration, which without hesitation completed the process of designating the academic best qualified – according to them - to occupy the Chair. Fully aware of the potential criticism their choice might entail, they based their decision entirely upon the academic criteria of competence and experience. I thank them for their courage, and for their expression of confidence. Academic recognition by one of Europe's most prestigious universities in the field of Islamic Studies has dealt a sharp blow to the rumor campaign directed against me by a handful of unscrupulous politicians and journalists.

I take this opportunity to praise the attitude of the Dutch government, particularly that of the Minister of Education, Mr. Ronald Plasterk, who defended the University's decision as a matter of academic freedom, affirming that the government had no cause to intervene. I wish only that the current American administration had adopted such a fair and dignified attitude of respect for the principle of free speech for university professors.

The fact is that premature announcement of the appointment has placed me in a delicate position. I have devoted several weeks to evaluating all aspects of the issue; I have consulted colleagues at the universities with which I am today affiliated. The prestige of the Islamic Studies program at the University of Leiden, and the scope and nature of the proposed teaching and research program were as attractive as they were compelling. These factors I had to weigh against family concerns, other major academic projects, and other extremely serious proposals already under consideration. After thorough reflection, I have decided, with regret, to turn down the appointment to the University of Leiden Islamic Studies Chair.

The decision has been a difficult one, and may seem surprising. I must stress that it has been taken in full respect for the expectations of the academic authorities of the University of Leiden, and of those with whom I am collaborating today, in a spirit of clarity and transparency. Furthermore, it has been taken for purely professional reasons. I have so informed the Dean of the Faculty, Professor Willem B. Drees, whom I personally thank for his cooperation and long-standing support; my thanks to the members of the selection committee as well.

Though I am unable to accept the University of Leiden's generous appointment, I fully intend to pursue and deepen my intellectual, academic and civic commitment to the promotion of scholarship, mutual respect and dialogue among men of good will, among societies, cultures and civilizations.

Source: Tariq Ramadan (English)

See also:
Leiden: Tariq Ramadan to be chair of Islamology

Denmark: Muslim schools should be banned

There have been several articles recently about Muslim private schools in Copenhagen, following a study which has recently been released.  I will try to translate them in the upcoming few days.  Meanwhile, a suggestion that city schools learn from Muslim private schools has been met with an opposing suggestion from the city's deputy mayor for integration, Jakob Hougaard: to ban Muslim schools entirely.  Hougaard is hereby keeping up with suggestions he had made in the past to make public schools more Muslim-friendly, enabling halal food and giving time off on religious holidays.


Copenhagen's deputy mayor for integration Jakob Hougaard will not accept that public schools should learn from Muslim private schools' good scores.  He thinks the private school law should be changed so that it would be forbidden to set up school for immigrant children.  Jakob Hougaard said this in response to the competition that the city's public schools face from Muslim private schools.

Jakob Hougaard says it is problematic that people can set up private schools whose primary target group are the immigrants and that Denmark publicly supports a school which is unsuitable for integration.  He doesn't think people should be allowed to set up private schools where immigrant children are the primary target group.

In Copenhagen 26% of bilingual kids from non-Western countries go to private school, and a large part go to completely bilingual private school.  According to plans that should be 8%.

Muslim private schools have good scores - taking their student body into consideration - but Hougaard doesn't think that's enough.  Private schools might do well academically, but integration depends on immigrant and Danish children learning and being together.

Private schools continue to present quite a competition for public schools, but he is not willing to accept that Copenhagen should now learn from Muslim private schools.  He thinks it is serious, both in terms of creating a divide and in terms of supporting that some families live without contact with Danish children.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali supports such a ban.  She says it is brave and correct for Hougaard to criticize the schools for harming integration and that therefore the demands from the schools should be intensified, according to newspaper Kristeligt Dagblad

Ayaan Hirsi Ali says that Muslim private school maintain values that go against everything in the country in which the children grow up and in which they will become full citizens.

Hirsi Ali says that kids should go to Koran school on Saturday, but Muslim private schools where they get their basic education and spend so many hours, should be banned.  She thinks that Muslim private schools can be banned and Christian and Jewish schools allowed without there being an issue of discrimination.

Sources: TV2 (Danish), DR (Danish)  h/t Hodja (Danish)

See also: Copenhagen: Taking Muslim schools as an example, Copenhagen: Islam to fill the city

Netherlands: Muslim Council "fears the worst"

Abdelmajid Khairoun of the Dutch Muslim Council deplores the plans of Geert Wilders to make a film about the Koran. According to Khairoun, Wilders' film plans are not really news. The head of the PVV continues to provoke.

"We fear the worst if this becomes reality. Then on any given moment the last word will be up to the youth on the streets. And we can then not hold them back. Just look at France."

Khairoun also expects many negative reactions from abroad, compared with the affair of the satiric cartoons about the prophet Muhammad in Denmark, two years ago. "Other countries will not understand it. I'm afraid that many Dutch products will be boycotted."

"Wilders isn't only offending Muslims, but also the Netherlands as a whole. For that matter, I don't think that he'd read the Koran, just as the book of criminal law, because you're not allowed to discriminate."

Another umbrella organization the Contact Organ of Muslims and Government (Contactorgaan Moslims en Overheid, CMO) did not react to Wilder's plans. "It is not the first time that Wilders says something negative about the Koran, currently I will not say more," says president Driss el Boujoufi.

Source: Telegraaf (Dutch)

See also: Netherlands: Concern about Wilders film, Netherlands: Muslim broadcaster increasingly controlled by radicals

Norway: Terror attack thwarted in 1979

A television documentary will finally provide confirmation that a massive terrorist plot was thwarted in Oslo in the summer of 1979.

Police have confirmed that there was a plan to blow up the Israeli and Egyptian embassies in Oslo, NRK (Norwegian Broadcasting) reports.

The two embassies are located in the densely populated and affluent Frogner district of Oslo, and were to have been blown up using vans filled with dynamite, the NRK documentary reports.

According to the program to be aired by NRK2 Spekter on Wednesday evening, two Norwegian criminals were approached at a nightclub in the Grand Hotel by a Tunisian named Ali.

The Norwegian pair were offered NOK 1 million each, to be paid by Libyan intelligence, to drive the explosive filled vans into position.

The plot was allegedly inspired by discontent after the peace agreement between Israel and Egypt earlier that year - the Camp David pact between the two countries and the USA, to promote a peaceful solution to Mideast tensions.

After nearly three months of surveillance and wire-tapping, the central figures in the plot were arrested and the Arab terrorist later expelled to Tunisia. Police never found the dynamite, and the matter was kept secret.

Source: Aftenposten (English)

Norway: Sexual assault by Islam teacher

A nine year old girl who came for Arabic and Islam lessons ended up being abused by the teacher. The sexual attacks took place at the Muslim society at Sørlandet for several months before last Christmas, writes Fædrelandsvennen newspaper online.

The court at Kristiansand sentenced the man to an unconditional prison sentence of 2.5 years for raping the 9 year old and sexually attacking both her and her younger sister (7).

The suspect claimed that the children were used as a tool to compromise him and that the reports of an attack were an act of vengeance from the parent's side.

The man must also pay compensation to the kids and will not work any longer with children and youth, writes

Source: TV2 (Norwegian)

UK: Recruiting Muslim spies

Britain's foreign intelligence agency MI6 has opened its doors to a popular radio program, part of its bid to recruit the minorities and female officers it says it needs to spy on the country's enemies.

MI6 allowed BBC Radio One — a station aimed mainly at young people — to conduct the first ever interviews inside its London headquarters.

The interviews were tightly policed — the MI6 chief of recruitment was referred to by a fake name, while the reporter's movements inside the building were strictly controlled. The recruiter spoke about Britain's need for a more diverse bunch of spies.

"People who have a different ethnicity can often go places and do things and meet people that those from a white background can't," he said. "There are some places that white males can't go."

MI6 is trying to shed its James Bond-inspired image, something the recruiter said gave others a "a false impression of what working for the organization is actually like.

"It does tend to turn up quite a lot of thrill seekers and fantasists, and we're really not interested in them," he said.

MI6 recently advertised for Somali speakers and parts of the weeklong program featured by the BBC seemed aimed at recruiting from Britain's large Muslim community. One Muslim agent emphasized that her work and her faith were completely in tune.

"The way I feel is my duty to God is totally compatible with my duty to my country," she said. "I feel very, very strongly that if you are able to do something to make a difference you should make that difference."

MI5, the spy agency's domestic counterpart, is also trying to enlist more recruits from minority backgrounds as it expands its staff from 3,000 people to 4,000.

MI5 agents from minority backgrounds spoke to the BBC's Asian Network in interviews broadcast Monday, saying their work helped defend — not betray — their communities.

"I think you realize this isn't about spying on your own community, or letting your own community down," one agent told the BBC.

Both agencies and police have faced criticism from Muslim communities that they are unfairly targeted during inquiries into terrorism. Police have been accused of using heavy-handed tactics and acting on flimsy intelligence to detain Muslim suspects.

Minorities make up only 6.5 percent of the staff of MI5. The service — which has had two female chiefs since 1992 — is also struggling to attract female agents.

Women comprise 43 percent of MI5, down from 51 percent in the 1990s.

"Ideally we'd like to be back at 50/50 again," a government security official told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the work.

The official said MI5 needed people of all backgrounds, particularly for surveillance duties — when agents must blend in with the community.

Source: AP (English)

Norway: Halal chicken dispute

"I know that the imams think we shouldn't eat chicken, but the shops say that the chickens are halal-slaughtered.  Then people are just confused.  I think about this deep down, but didn't stop eating chicken," says Atef Kassabi who came in to Grønland for shopping.

He isn't the only Muslim at a loss.  After the ban against eating chickens appeared in July, it has been a subject of conflict in the Muslim community.  The head of the Islamic Council of Norway (IRN) together with over 25 imams signed a declarations that chickens in Norway and Sweden are not being slaughtered in the Islamic manner.

A minority of imams did not sign the declaration.  They think it is ok to eat chicken.

Many Muslims refuse to listen to the IRN.

"When the imams said that people can't sell or eat chicken, they had all been warned.  Those who don't follow the ban, sin.  But people decide on their own,"  says imam Syed Ikram Shah Jilani of the World Islamic Mission to Aften

Before an animal is slaughtered in the Islamic manner it must be alive when the aorta is cut.

In May this year Mattilsynet (Norwegian Food Safety Authority) inspected 400 chickens who were slaughted by Nortura Elverum's slaughter house to find out if the chickens were alive after they were stunned with gas. The inspections took place four times and it showed that 93-99% of the chickens lived after the stunning.  the imams base their ban on this and other similar checks.

Iltaf Hussain has slaughtered halal for 25 years.  He doesn't agree with the imams.  Monday he got 13,000 chickens that he will sell marked as halal from his shop in Tøyen.  He says the slaughterhouse sifts out chickens that weren't alive during slaughter and that he vouches that they do a thorough job.  "I will never sell chicken if I wasn't certain that they are halal," says Hussain decidedly.

Jews are also not allowed to eat animals which have been killed before slaughter.  Anne Sender, head of the Jewish community says that the community had no chicken from 2003 to 2006.  They got a big consignment from the US last year, but it will soon be finished.

Source: Aftenposten (Norwegian)

See also: Norway: Islamic Council halal concerns

Netherlands: Concern about Wilders film

The cabinet is concerned about the reaction to a provocative television film on the Koran that Geert Wilders is working on. The ministers of justice and home affairs have reportedly pointed out the risks of the film project to the Freedom Party PVV leader during a talk.

"Measures have been taken in the event that a heated discussion follows on the film here and abroad," a spokesperson for Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin said on Wednesday in response to reports in the Telegraaf.

Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin stressed on Wednesday that Wilders is free to express his views, but that people also have a responsibility to society as a whole. "Think about the repercussions," is what he told the MP.

These repercussions could take all sorts of forms, the minister says. He wants to wait to see the contents of the film, but if it contains the radical views anticipated, it can "provoke heated reactions towards himself and others."

Hirsch Ballin says participants in the debate must show respect for all religions and for what is sacred to another. If this boundary is overstepped, the cabinet will oppose the film and make it clear that "we owe respect to each other," the minister said. "And any violence is condemned."

An employee of Wilders had informed the ministers of the film project. The cabinet members then talked to him about their concerns regarding a possible backlash. Rumour has it that Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Verhagen has also talked with Wilders about the matter.

The PVV faction leader has confirmed that he is working on a film. The film presents the Koran as a fascist book, in line with earlier statements from Wilders.

Parliament does not want to comment further on the contents of the film, which is scheduled for broadcast in January.

It has been suggested that a number of public broadcasters are interested but insist on certain conditions. Wilders did not want to comment on that. He did say the PVV might broadcast the film during the airtime allotted to it – all political parties are entitled to a certain amount of airtime. Internet broadcast is another possibility.

Wilders did not want to confirm that he has discussed his film plans with any cabinet ministers.

Source: Expatica (English)

Meanwhile, in the Netherlands..

High school students countrywide are demonstrating against a law requiring them to be at school for 1,040 hours.


A demonstration of high school students in Leiden yesterday developed into riots. Four people were arrested.

The students started the protests at the schools and then marched to the town hall. There the protest quickly took on a more grim character. Students chanted slogans such as "Jews, Jews" and "Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas."

The students threw eggs, fireworks and stink bombs, broke windows and damaged cars and fences along their route.

Source: Leidsch Dagblad (Dutch)

Ghent: Headscarves banned

Belgium's third largest city Ghent has banned its employees from wearing Muslim headscarves and other religious or political symbols. The proposal by the Flemish liberal party was approved in the city council by 26 votes to 23.

All city personnel, such as librarians and child care workers, will not be allowed to wear such garments or symbols if they come into contact with the public. The council voted 26 to 23 late on Monday for the ban, with the Liberals, Christian Democrats and far-right Vlaams Belang in favour and the socialists and Greens against.

"It is really not clear who counts as an employee in contact with the public, but we will have to carry it out," said a spokesman.

The city has 4,700 employees and is aware of two women wearing headscarves who work on counters dealing with the public. It was possible they might be offered work elsewhere, the spokesman said.

The ban would not affect teachers and police officers. The ban in Ghent follows a similar ban earlier this year in Belgium's second city Antwerp. Antwerp has since decided that Muslim women in nurseries would be allowed to cover their heads with bandanas instead of headscarves.

Similar measures have been imposed in other European countries like France, where there are growing numbers of Muslim immigrants.

The measures are controversial. Supporters say they help Muslim immigrant women better integrate in their host countries, while opponents say they are discriminatory.

Source: Expatica (English)

See also: Belgium: Headscarf fashion show

Paris: 3rd night of riots

Massive police reinforcements, led by the Prime Minister in person, attempted to stem a violent revolt, bordering on guerrilla warfare, on the northern fringes of greater Paris.

Cars and shops were set alight late last night but there was nothing like the massed attacks on police seen on Monday evening when 82 officers were injured, some by pellets from shot-guns and light hunting rifles.

Appeals for calm, and an influx of hundreds of police, led by the Prime Minister François Fillon and Interior Minister Michèle Alliot- Marie, appeared to have imposed an uneasy calm in the early part of the evening in the town of Villiers-le-Bel, 12 miles north of Paris. The town's library and two schools were burned to the ground on Monday night in running battles between police and a mob of 150 to 200 youths.

Despite the apparent lull, fears remained high that the riots might erupt once again and spread to other poor and troubled suburbs of French cities, just as they did in November 2005. There were car burnings in several cities last night and an attempted arson attack on a library in a poor district of Toulouse, in south-west France. President Nicolas Sarkozy, who was returning from a visit to China last night, will hold an emergency security meeting today.

The violence in Villiers-le-Bel, previously a leafy island of relative calm in the far northern suburbs of the capital, was sparked by the death of two teenage boys after an accident between their miniature scrambling bike and a police car.

A broadly similar incident, in another northern Paris suburb, ignited the riots two years ago, which spread to the poor districts of almost every town and city in France.

Why should an accident produce such an explosion of violence? Why should boys, aged 14 to 17, some as young as 10, burn a library? What depths of hatred and anger would persuade them to fire hunting rifles and shot-guns at the police?

Two years after the suburban riots of 2005, France finds itself confronted with all of the same questions. Or, perhaps, even harder questions.

The evidence of the second night's rioting – more than 80 policemen injured by shotgun and airgun pellets, including four seriously – suggests that the level of urban violence has ratcheted up alarmingly. Few guns were used during the three weeks of nationwide riots in 2005.

On Monday night, the youths, mostly teenagers, but with some older leaders in their 20s, attacked the police head on. In 2005, there were thousands of incidents of arson but few direct confrontations.

Despite evidence to the contrary, the young people from the tower blocks of the ZAC – "concerted redevelopment zone" – on the edge of Villiers-le-Bel are convinced that Larami, 16, and Mouhsin, 15, were deliberately rammed by a patrolling police car.

According to the authorities, all the evidence from independent eye-witnesses points to a simple road accident. The two boys – riding without helmets on an off-road, miniature, scrambling bike – roared out of a side-street in front of the patrol car. The policemen tried to help them and called for medical help before retreating from a menacing mob, police say.

Part of the problem is that the police – and the then interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy – made similar dismissive comments after two teenage boys died in an electricity sub-station at Clichy-sous-Bois while fleeing police in late October 2005. It later emerged that the boys, innocent of any crime, had been pursued by police and the officers had abandoned them in the sub-station, knowing that they were in danger.

A much larger part of the problem is that a state of warfare now exists between the police and young people in the poor, multi-racial suburbs. For them it is inconceivable that a fatal accident involving a police-car could have been an "accident". Amina, 28, was visiting the impromptu shrine to the boys where they died. "Yes, of course it was probably an accident but try telling that to the other boys here," she said. "This is not an especially violent place. When the police come here, it is only to make trouble, to harass and insult the boys and young men. Even I have to ask myself: what were the police doing here on Sunday?"

Even politicians from his own centre-right party are pointing to a decision taken by M. Sarkozy as interior minister in 2002 as the source of much of the increased anger in the banlieues. M. Sarkozy abolished the local police units in the suburbs and replaced them with flying squads, including units of the CRS riot police. Hugues Portelli, centre-right mayor of Ermont, close to Villiers le Bel, said yesterday: "We need to have the local police back... in my town we know very well that there is no point in calling in some CRS units. They only provoke a fight."

Source: Independent (English)

See also: Paris: Riots , Paris: Riots continue

Sweden: Chinese Muslim freed from Guantánamo seeks new life in Sweden

It's been a harrowing journey: from repression in China to war in Afghanistan and four long years at Guantánamo Bay as a captive in the war on terror.

Adel Abdu al Hakim hopes it ends here, in his sister's tidy apartment in a suburb of the Swedish capital.

''I was in prison for 4 ½ years and during that time I thought to myself that maybe this is my life,'' Hakim, 33, told The Associated Press in an interview. ``Now I just want to live the life of a normal person.''

Last week he arrived in Sweden to reunite with relatives he had thought he would never see again.

Hakim was released last year from Guantánamo along with four other Uighurs, a minority group of Turkic-speaking Chinese Muslims, after the United States admitted they were not terrorists. Authorities believed they might face persecution if returned to China, so they were sent instead to Albania, the only other country that would receive them.

But the Uighurs found themselves isolated and jobless in a nation where no one spoke their language.

Hakim took advantage of an invitation to attend a human rights conference in Sweden, where his sister sought shelter in 2002. He applied for asylum on Nov. 20 after arriving on a four-day visa.

The chances for approval were uncertain because the case is unique in Sweden. Hakim likely will be allowed to stay in the country pending a decision, although authorities could deport him immediately if they determine his case has no merit.

''We have fought for a very long time and now we are very happy to be together,'' he said, surrounded by his sister, Kavser, and her daughters in the living room of the apartment in Sundbyberg, just outside Stockholm.

Calmly, he recalled the tumultuous decade that brought him here.

He left China in 1999, fed up with harassment and discrimination by Chinese authorities. Two years earlier, he said, he had been detained and beaten after attending a demonstration against the mistreatment of Uighurs in his home town.

Critics accuse China of using claims of terrorism as an excuse to crack down on peaceful pro-independence sentiment among Uighurs.

After spending his first year as a refugee in Kyrgyzstan, Hakim and fellow Uighur Abu Bakker Qassim decided to move on to Turkey.

Their journey took them through Pakistan and Afghanistan -- clearly an unsafe destination in fall 2001 as the United States launched its campaign against the Taliban.

As bombs rained down on a small Afghan mountain village where they had joined other Uighurs, they fled to Pakistan -- only to be detained and handed over to U.S. authorities for US$5,000 each, Hakim said. ``It was all about money.''

Shackled and hooded, they were transferred to a prison camp in Kandahar, Afghanistan, where they spent six months before being moved to Guantánamo. At that point, the Americans already knew they were not terrorists, Hakim said.

''In the last interrogation in Afghanistan, the Americans acknowledged that they had arrested us by mistake, but said they could not let us go so easily,'' he said.

The formal acknowledgment of this mistake came only after a lengthy legal battle in which a military tribunal ruled Hakim and other Uighurs were not enemy combatants.

''Of course I was angry. I tried to hide my emotions, but I still cried a lot,'' Hakim said.

Beijing wanted the Uighur detainees sent back to China, saying they were part of a violent Muslim separatist movement fighting for an independent state of ``East Turkistan.''

U.S. authorities resisted, but declined to let them into the United States. Appeals went out to third countries to give them shelter, but all were rejected before Albania, an small ex-communist country, said yes.

Lawyers in the United States and Sweden as well as human rights groups helped Hakim obtain his four-day visa for Sweden.

As he awaits his asylum decision, the joy of being reunited with his sister and her family is tempered by the absence of his own wife and children, who still live in China.

''I don't have the possibility to get them from over there. The Chinese authorities won't allow it,'' he said. ``My children keep asking when I will come back . . . why I don't want to come and get them, why all children have fathers and they don't.''

Source: Miami Herald (English)

Denmark: Nationalist leader says Danish identity under threat from Muslim immigrants

Raving xenophobe or fearless defender of Danish values?

Nationalist leader Pia Kjaersgaard's anti-Muslim outbursts have earned her many labels — and many votes.

Despite predictions of her populist Danish People's Party's demise, Kjaersgaard remains a powerful force in domestic politics after winning 14 percent of the vote in last week's election.

"The most important thing for the Danish People's Party is to maintain the Danish identity," Kjaersgaard, 60, told The Associated Press in an interview.

"I am convinced that the Islamists want to sneak Sharia (Islamic law) through the back door, that they want to combat Western society and they want Islam to become the main religion," she said.

Her party — Denmark's third biggest — has held the role of kingmaker since 2001, giving the center-right government the backing it needs for a majority in Parliament.

In return, Kjaersgaard has been able to press the government to adopt some of Europe's strictest immigration laws, which she says have been instrumental in stemming the inflow of Muslims with radical views.

There are an estimated 200,000 Muslims among Denmark's 5.4 million residents.

"The individual Muslim has never been a problem for Danish society. But their number has," Kjaersgaard told AP in her office, decorated with Danish flags and paintings depicting Danish landscapes.

To emphasize her point, she said she shops at a grocery store owned by a Turkish Kurd who respects Danish laws and culture.

"He has a lot of great stuff — fruits, vegetables — and he's a good friend of mine," Kjaersgaard said.

The flow of asylum-seekers has dropped by 84 percent since Denmark tightened its immigration laws in 2001. There is now broad agreement across party lines to maintain the system.

But critics say the Danish People's Party has polarized Danish society by bashing Islam and stereotyping immigrants as welfare cheats.

"She is a scare-mongering populist and opportunist," said Holger K. Nielsen of the left-wing opposition Socialist People's Party. He added Kjaersgaard was a skillful politician who has tapped into undercurrents of nationalism and worries over immigration among Danes.

During last year's uproar over Danish caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, Kjaersgaard and other leading party members took turns blasting Islam as incompatible with Danish traditions including free speech.

Ahead of the Nov. 13 election, one of the party's campaign posters showed an artist's hand drawing a picture of Muhammad, with the text "Freedom of speech is Danish, censorship is not."

"Sometimes I wonder what other people think about me — 'is she a monster?'" Kjaersgaard conceded in a moment of introspection. "I need to brush these things off, otherwise I will go down."

Kjaersgaard, who lives with round-the-clock police protection, quickly added she has no regrets about anything she has said.

She rejects accusations of racism and comparisons to far-right parties across Europe such as the National Front in France.

"There is nothing racist about what I have said, I know that. I have a clean conscience," she said. "My driving force is the love for my home country. ... I want Denmark to be a safe and good and cozy nation that has a good relationship to the rest of the world."

When asked if she thought Islam can contribute to Danish society in any way, she replied: "I don't think so at all."

Source: International Herald Tribune (English)

Paris: Champs-Elysees suffers crime wave

"The atmosphere is no longer good-natured like it once was. There are more and more incidents," according to Guy Parent, head of the Paris anti-prostitution brigade, who said the avenue was increasingly the haunt of crowds of suburban youths.

"Many people from the poor out-of-town estates come wanting to party in the nightclubs. They are often under the influence of alcohol and that creates incidents," he said.


According to Parent, the Champs-Elysees is increasingly prey to North African prostitutes known as "les marcheuses" or walkers because in order to avoid France's anti-loitering laws they keep moving when they pick up customers.

"They are very chic and they are after a very wealthy clientele. They are seeking out the Saudis and the Kuwaitis, the ones I call the oilmen," he said.

Source: Expatica (English)

Sweden: Young Swedes 'not positive' to foreign colleagues

Less than half of young adults think that Swedes with foreign backgrounds make a positive difference to workplaces.

Only four out of ten people aged 18-24 think that colleagues with immigrant backgrounds are a positive influence, according to the survey carried out by Manpower. Among people in the 55-64 age group, six out of ten think that immigrant colleagues are a positive addition to the workplace.

Of those who were questioned in the poll, 34 percent said that there were too few people with foreign backgrounds present on the Swedish labour market. 39 percent replied that it was not a problem.

More than half of those replying to the survey who were born outside Europe said that too few people with foreign backgrounds were represented on the employment market.

The survey was based on questions to a panel of 14,866 people who respond to Manpower's questions about the employment market three times a year.

Source: The Local (English)

Sweden: Deport people smuggled in

People who have been smuggled into Sweden should be deported, a leading Social Democrat politician has said. Allowing those who have paid thousands to people smugglers to stay is not fair on people who can't afford to pay to leave their homelands.

Göran Johansson, leader of Gothenburg Council, said he based his views on the fact that many of the 20,000 Iraqis expected to come to Sweden this year came here illegally, often with the help of people smugglers.

"If it is obvious that someone has been smuggled in they should be sent back again," Johansson told newspaper GT.

People pay around 100,000 kronor ($16,000) each to be brought to Sweden.

"We should never accept this. By not saying anything we are tacitly accepting people smuggling," Johansson said.

Johansson admitted that his idea, if put into practice, would lead to more people being returned directly to their homelands.

"Then they can come back by the normal route," he said. He added that it was immoral for money to decide who would make it to Sweden.

"There may be those who can't scrape together 100,000 kronor whose need to come here is perhaps greater. But they don't get a chance," he said.

Source: The Local (English)

Spain: Company introduces veil

A Murcia company has introduced the Islamic veil as part of their work uniform. It means that from January the 850 workers at Agromediterránea S.C.L. can wear a plain white veil if they so want.

The preserves company employs as many as 150 Muslim workers, and it's thought to be the first case of its type where a Murcia company has changed uniform regulations to accommodate the religious customs of their workers.

20 minutos reports that the initiative comes at the women's request.

Source: Typically Spanish (English)

Paris: Riots continue

FRENCH police say 64 officers were injured, five of them critically, in a second night of clashes with youths in and around the flashpoint Paris suburb of Villiers-le-Bel.

The injuries followed rioting in Villiers-le-Bel and the nearby towns of Sarcelles and Garges-les-Gonesses, a police source said.


French police fired tear gas and rubber bullets late on Monday during running battles with rioters in a suburb north of Paris where two youths died after a crash involving a police car.

During a second night of disturbances in Villiers-le-Bel and nearby areas, a local government official said one policeman suffered minor injuries after being shot in the shoulder by some kind of firearm.

A Reuters witness said police were pelted with stones and large firecrackers that exploded over their heads during hours of cat-and-mouse skirmishes with rioters.

Police replied with tear gas, rubber bullets and paint guns designed to identify troublemakers. Spent cartridges and rocks thrown by rioters littered the streets.

Around half a dozen injured officers received treatment in a local fire station used by police as a base. One officer, his face bloodied, had his arm in a sling.

Rioters torched a car, a garbage truck and a police vehicle.

Local mayor Didier Vaillant, who had earlier called for calm, said airguns had been fired. "It looks like it's going to be a long night," he said.

More unrest was reported in three nearby districts.

The violence revived memories of the 2005 riots in France's poor, often ethnically diverse, housing estates.

In that unrest thousands of cars were torched after two teenagers were accidentally electrocuted when they climbed into a power sub-station while fleeing police.

Extra police had been drafted into Villiers-le-Bel on Monday in case of a repeat of
disturbances on Sunday, sparked by the deaths of two youths whose moped collided with a police car.

Officials said 28 cars and five buildings were set ablaze, including a police station, in violence that injured 26 police and fire officers. Nine people were arrested on Sunday.


President Nicolas Sarkozy was interior minister during the 2005 riots, when he took a tough line with the rioters which critics said helped stoke the violence.

On Monday, the head of state called for calm.

"I call on everyone to calm down and let the justice system decide who was responsible," Sarkozy told reporters during an official visit to Beijing.

Police have launched an investigation into Sunday's accident, which involved a police car and a moped driven by youths aged 15 and 16. Police say the moped was stolen and the teenagers ignored traffic regulations.

The investigation will focus on whether the two officers helped the dying youths. Relatives and locals complained the police fled the scene after the incident.

Local public prosecutor Marie-Therese de Givry told LCI television the crash investigator's preliminary findings showed the youngsters had turned into the path of the police vehicle.

"The mini-moto was in third gear, which means it was going at top speed," she said. "That's what the expert report says, which confirms the statement by the driver of the police vehicle as well as that of two witnesses."

The officers had immediately called the emergency services. Tapes of the calls and subsequent radio traffic would be studied to see if police followed the correct procedures, she said.

Local inhabitants of the Villiers-le-Bel estate contested that version of events.

"That they say it was an accident, when they ran away, -- ran away, I say -- that's unacceptable for those who represent the law," Slimane Erraji, uncle of one of the dead, told LCI.

Sources: (English), Reuters (English)

See also: Paris: Riots

Belgium: Muslim survey

Half of the immigrants felt discriminated last year, almost two thirds never or seldom go to a mosque and more than half vote for a left-wing party. These are several of the findings of a survey of a limited number of Muslims, performed by the weekly Humo.

In total the weekly surveyed 581 Flemish and Brussels residents between 15 and 45 years old, of North African and Turkish origin. The greater part of the respondents called themselves Muslims.

Though 85% called themselves Muslims, 60% never or rarely set foot in a mosque. 15% of those surveyed were practicing Muslims who go one or more times per week to a mosque. More women than men said they never or seldom go to a mosque (50% vs. 25%).

About 60% do pray once or more every day. Three quarters of Muslims says they never drink alcohol. Again, there's a significant difference between men and women: 67% of men never drink compared to 84% of women.

In cases where the Belgian law is in conflict with the Islamic Sharia, 25% of Muslims would follow the Sharia.

51% of the respondents felt discriminated in the past months. Immigrants of Moroccan origin had that feeling more often then those of Turkish origin (63% vs 40%).

A small majority felt they weren't understood by the Belgians. 70% feel that the Belgians don't understand ritual slaughter and 77% thinks that the Belgians don't understand the headscarf.

For 35% sex before marriage is not a problem, while for half it's not allowed. More than half of the respondents did not have any preference for a Belgian or an immigrant marriage partner. 74% of the married respondents were married to an immigrant.

Two thirds didn't think that a woman should "always obey" her husband, while a third did agree with that opinion. More men (37%) than women (24%) thought a Muslim woman should always wear a headscarf when outside.

The respondents said that the attacks of 9/11 had an impact on their lives. 25% thought the atmosphere i the neighborhood has changed, while 605 thought that the Belgians saw them more suspiciously.

Most would vote for a left-wing party. 42% would vote for sp.a if there were elections now, 12% for Groen!.

Two thirds of immigrants say they are happy. Those of Turkish origin feel yet happier than those of Moroccan origins (72% vs. 63%).

Source: HLN (Dutch)

Also see: Humo's Big Muslim Survey (Dutch)

Habdol Hamid: Denmark should indicate its disgust to Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is a brutal and male chauvinist regime, which abuses religion to grab on to power, says Red-Green Alliance's parliament candidate Asmaa Abdol-Hamid after the case in which a 19 year old women was sentenced to lashes and a jail sentence after a group rape. According to the Saudis the woman's crime was that she was in a car with a man who wasn't related to her when she was raped. This is a serious crime in Islamic Saudi Arabia in which there are laws to separate the sexes.

Asmaa Abdol-Hamid said that Saudi Arabia should be pressured and told that we can't accept something like this. That a woman will be punished because she was raped, and should be even more punished because she told about it. Saudi Arabia is a dictatorship, that is male controlled and male chauvinistic. This is clearly an abuse of religion, and it is very distant from Islam, which she herself practices.

Source: Berlingske Tidende (Danish)

Stockholm: Protest against Iranian government

Some 2,000 supporters of an Iranian opposition movement marched through Stockholm on Saturday to protest against Tehran, police and organisers said.

"We want to raise public awareness in Sweden about what the government in Iran is doing ... There are so many terrible things that happen in Iran, human rights abuses, executions," one of the organisers of the protest, Hanif Asyabani, told AFP.

The demonstration was pulled together by the opposition umbrella organisation National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).

It was also in support of one of its member groups, the People's Mujahedeen Organisation of Iran (PMOI), which has been designated a terrorist organisation by the United States and the European Union.

According to Swedish police, some 2,000 protesters, many bearing yellow banners and waving pre-revolutionary Iranian flags, participated in the march.

Source: The Local (English)

Paris: Riots

Angry youths set fire to buildings, shops and a police station after two teenagers died Sunday in a crash with a police car at a Paris suburb, as 21 policemen and firefighters were injured in the unrest, police said.

A police station in the town of Villiers-le-Bel was set on fire and another one in neighbouring Arnouville was wrecked after the pair -- aged 15 and 16 -- were killed in the accident.

Police said there were reports of "small groups attacking shops, passers-by and car drivers" to rob them. One suspect carrying jewellery from a looted store at Villiers-le-Bel was detained.

Rioters torched two garages, a petrol pump and two shops, pillaged the railway station at Arnouville and set fire to at least 21 cars. Police reported at least seven arrests.

Four riot police officers and three other police officers were wounded in clashes which erupted after 6:00 pm accident, according to first reports.

Police earlier said that another officer who tried to calm the situation suffered injuries to his face.

Early Monday, some 100 youths thronged the accident site as police forensic experts examined the area.

"The truth should emerge or we will take the law in our own hands," some of them warned the police.

Omar Sehhouli, the brother of one of the victims, told AFP he wanted the police officers "responsible" for the accident to be brought to justice.

He said the rioting "was not violence but an expression of rage."

Locals from the town meanwhile said late Sunday that the rampaging youths had burnt cars to prevent police from entering the area.

"The police cannot go in. Every time they try to do so, the youths charge with whatever they can lay their hands on," a resident said.

Relations between youths and police are traditionally tense in some Paris-area suburbs, some of which are dominated by immigrants.

The 2005 electrocution deaths of two immigrant youths allegedly fleeing police in the suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois sparked two months of rioting that spread to other parts of France in the worst such unrest in decades.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, a former interior minister, is reviled in the immigrant-heavy neighbourhoods for having campaigned on a pledge to launch a Marshall Plan for the suburbs after the 2005 riots showed up France's failure to integrate immigrants.

The French-born descendants of African and Arab immigrants complain of being treated like outcasts in their country, herded into grimy high-rise complexes on the fringes of cities.

Source: Expatica (English)

Copenhagen: Taking Muslim schools as an example

25% of bilingual children in Copenhagen go to a Muslim private school, where the students - taking their social background into account - get pretty good results.  Now the municipal schools will learn from the private schools, since they get better scores than the Copenhagen munciipal schools with many bilingual kids.

Søren Hegnby of the office for integration at the municipal youth service says that they will learn what the schools do.  He had supervised some of the Muslim schools and has found that they demand much more from their students regarding effort and behavior.

Data from the municipality's 16 schools with the most bilingual students shows that the ten Muslim schools' grade average in 2002-2006 was 7.39-8.36, while the six public schools had an average of 7.18-7.29 .  Søren Hegnby thinks that the free-schools succeed with what Danes consider old-fashioned pedagogic methods.

Søren Hegnby says he thinks they should weigh if the most progressive pedagogic methods in public schools mainly fit children of ethnic minorities or Danish working-class children.  Some modern pedagogic methods fit the Danish "Cafe Latte Segment" because they take the middle-class world view as a starting point.

Annette Ihle of Copenhagen University has researched Muslims schools and points out that the students meet high demands in the schools.  Teachers have high expectations from their students.  

Education minister Bertel Haarder has both good and bad things to say about the Muslim private schools.  Some of them score very high in the academic subjects, but there are others that don't and some had to be closed down, so the picture is very complex.

He adds that several school principals of Copenhagen schools have complained that the students they get from Muslim private schools are at such a low level that they must be pushed down a grade.

In Copenhagen 25% of bilingual kids of a non-Western background go to a Muslim private school.  The demand for the schools is rising and several report long waiting lists.

Durmus Bilge, head of the Turkish Sjælland private school says that the school balances between Danish and Turkish school traditions . Some of the methods are not current practice in Danish public schools.  For example, students get cash prizes and diplomas for doing well at school and socially.

Source: Berlingske Tidende (Danish)

See also: Denmark: Muslim school popular

Belgium: Muslim burial

According to Khalid Assecour, there should be a central Muslim cemetery for Muslims in Limburg. Assecour is responsible for cemeteries in Houthalen-Helchteren.

Currently five Limburg municipalities reserves places for Muslims who have passed away. But because more Muslims living in Limburg want to be buried there and not all Muslims from smaller communities get an opportunity to do so, it would be better to provide one central cemetery.

The subject of Muslim burial is also relevant in Mechelen and Ghent. Mechelen is currently checking if it's possible to arrange a separate cemetery for Muslims. Ghent announced it does not want a separate cemetery for Muslims, but rather burial in existing churchyards will be provided oriented in the direction of Mecca.

The Limburg municipalities of Beringen, Dilsen-Stokkem, Houthalen-Helchteren, Maaseik and Neerpelt provide separate places for Muslims. According to the Islamic tradition, Muslims are buried with a shroud, on their right side, in the direction of Mecca. Islam also proscribes that a burial is eternal.

Source: HBVL (Dutch), h/t Nieuw Religieus Peil (Dutch)

See also:
Norway: Muslim cemetery only for city residents, Netherlands: Cemetery turned, Denmark: First Muslim cemetery

Trondheim: Muslim police student incident during Jewish community visit

A Muslim student acted threateningly, aggressively and in a racist manner while visiting a Jewish synagogue.

The heads of the Mosaic Society (mosaiske trossamfunn) in Tronheim reacted sharply to the behavior of the police student during a visit to the synagogue and the Jewish museum in Trondheim. President Rita Abrahamsen wrote a three page mail to police director Ingelin Killengreen. Asbjørn Gran of the police directorate says that they're currently working to understand the case. He says if the assertions are correct then it's a form of behavior that is totally unacceptable in our service.

The letter says that the police student refused to put on a skull cap when they entered the synagogue, saying he was Muslim. The head of the Jewish museum Henriette Khan answered according to the letter that it doesn't depend on the religion or culture of the visitor, but shows respect for the house of prayer - similar to taking off your shoes when entering a mosque. The student then started cursing, coupled with very threatening body language. he then entered, slamming the door after him. Khan though him aggressive and didn't dare follow up on the issue, according to the letter.

A while after the disturbance the Jewish community was rung up by a co-student from the police school who said that the police student had boasted that he had 'finally put the Jews in their place", according to the letter.

The letter is dated Oct. 16th and is titled, "Unpleasant close contact with a police student"

Abrahamsen didn't want to comment on the case to VG, saying she expressed herself in the letter. Henriette Khan also did not wish to comment.

According to the police academy's site, one of the police academy's top priorities is to reflect today's multi-cultural composition of Norwegian society.

The complaint will now be handled by the police directorate and the police academy in Oslo.

According to the police academy principal Hans Sverre Sjøvold tha man is no longer a student there and has finished his education. They are currently trying to piece together the entire picture, with his and others version of what happened. Sjøvold thinks it's important to find out how the police students behaved, and were perceived by others. He adds that it would be interesting to add this event to the ethical part of the studies.

Neither the police academy or the police directorate wished to arrange contact with the police student or somebody who represents him.

Source: VG (Norwegian)